Little Sisters of the Poor takes Obamacare birth control ruling to Supreme Court

The nuns from the Little Sisters of the Poor say they ‘hope the Supreme Court will hear our case and ensure that people from diverse faiths can freely follow God's calling in their lives.’(Becket Fund for Religious Liberty)

A group of nuns has asked the US Supreme Court to overturn a federal appeals court ruling that allows their employees to get contraceptives from a third party under the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, saying the ruling goes against their religious conviction.

The Little Sisters of the Poor from Colorado and four Oklahoma Christian colleges are asking the High Court to grant their petition against the decision of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, which ruled that the nuns must comply with the "accommodation" policy of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Under Obamacare, religious employers who oppose providing contraception to their employees must inform the HHS in writing of their religious objection. The HHS will then notify the insurer, or will work with the Department of Labor, to notify a third-party administrator to provide contraception coverage to the employees of the complaining religious employers.

The contraceptives will be provided at no cost to the employee or employer.

But the nuns said this still imposes a substantial burden on their religious beliefs.

The appeals court disagreed, saying it does not burden their religious exercise or infringe upon their First Amendment rights.

"The Sisters consider it immoral to help the government distribute these drugs. But instead of simply exempting them, the government insists that it can take over their ministry's employee healthcare to distribute these drugs to their employees, while dismissing the Sisters' moral objections as irrelevant," said Mark Rienzi, senior counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and lead attorney of the Little Sisters of the Poor.

He added, "In America, judges and government bureaucrats have no authority to tell the Little Sisters what is moral or immoral. And the government can distribute its drugs without nuns—it has its own healthcare exchanges that can provide whatever it wants."

Five federal appeals courts in Chicago, Cincinnati, New Orleans, Philadelphia and Washington, DC have also ruled against religious nonprofits that challenged the accommodation policy, according to Fox News.

"We hope the Supreme Court will hear our case and ensure that people from diverse faiths can freely follow God's calling in their lives," said Sr. Loraine Marie Maguire, Mother Provincial of the Little Sisters of the Poor.

The US Supreme Court may consider the petitions in late September or October. If it is granted, the petition would be argued and decided before the end of the court's term in June 2016.